From left to right, Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, producer Greg Shapiro and producer Nicolas Chartier pose with their BAFTA wins for Best Film for "The Hurt Locker."

From left to right, Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, producer Greg Shapiro and producer Nicolas Chartier pose with their BAFTA wins for Best Film for "The Hurt Locker" last Sunday night in London.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

'The Hurt Locker' may have destroyed its Best Picture chances

Producer's rule-breaking E-mails could benefit 'Avatar'

Somewhere this weekend executives at Summit Entertainment and their Academy Awards consultants are sweeping the floor of all the hair they pulled out after a week of bizarre and possibly game-changing events in the Best Picture race.  In one of the stupidest moves ever, Nicolas Charier, one of the officially accredited producers of "The Hurt Locker," sent out E-mails to friends and their acquaintances (ie, friend of friends) in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences urging them to vote for his picture.  It might sound silly, but that's a blatant violation of Academy rules.

Originally reported by The Envelope's Pete Hammond on Tuesday, the E-mails didn't sell the quality of the critically acclaimed thriller, but pushed the "independent" nature of "Locker" against a "$500 million" competitor.  Chartier didn't name "Avatar," but his campaign tone ("Please call one or two persons, everything will help!") did not suit well with the Academy.  By Thursday, the Academy had made Chartier send an apology to every member he'd contacted originally which included -- get this -- producers and filmmakers who worked on the other competing Best Picture nominees. Chartier was seemingly unaware of his bad taste and breach of Academy rules and it is expected that either Chartier or Summit Entertainment will be penalized because of his actions.  In the past, punishment in these types of matters has been confined to the allotment of tickets to the nominee (the golden egg to all involved). In this case that would constitute Summit Entertainment, the filmmakers and "Hurt Locker" producers.  The Academy have made it clear they won't comment on the situation or any reprimand until after the voting period closes on Tuesday, March 2 at 5 PM PT.

But, wait.  It got worse.

It appears Chartier sent out even more E-mails telling people how to rank their votes in order of preferential treatment. Specifically, he noted that  members put even if they are going to vote for "Locker," they should put "Avatar" as low as possible (say, No. 10 out of 10) because "we" need the win.  How the Academy will deal with these additional E-mails, which Chartier finally admitted to a shocked Summit Entertainment on Friday, will also remain unclear until next week.  However, at this point it wouldn't be surprising if Chartier is denied entry to the big show.  And, obviously, if "Locker" wins that would me he wouldn't get to appear on stage to accept the Oscar with his fellow producers including director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal.  And considering how this story has spread across town like wildfire, even if he is in the theater, he may want to avoid stepping up on stage if "Locker" wins. It might get a very ugly reaction from the audience.

The critical question is whether this drama will truly affect Academy member votes.  The Academy does not release what percentage of voters tend to send in their ballots early or late in the process and anecdotally it seems to depend on the year.  With members already complaining about how difficult it is to understand the Academy's instructions on how to vote for the new ten Best Picture system (next year they might send a video), you could deduct many have not submitted yet. Therefore, this negative press could have a huge impact on "Locker's" chances.

Complicating matters is the fact 20th Century Fox has launched a major media campaign buying national television spots that hype up the critical accolades and once in a lifetime achievement of "Avatar."  These are absolutely aimed at Academy voters and while the buy has no doubt cost millions of dollars, it's a drop in the bucket when you've made $2.46 billion worldwide (and counting).

These events have only increased the drama for a race that was too close to call even before the news of the E-mails spread across town.  Could Chartier's mistake scuttle his own film's chances of beating James Cameron's blockbuster?  We'll all find out on Sunday, March 7, but no matter what the outcome it's a sad footnote to what had been a memorable underdog campaign for Summit, Bigelow and "Locker" this awards season.

 For the latest in breaking entertainment news and commentary follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.

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Mo'Nique accepts her Best Supporting Actress NAACP Award for "Precious: Based on Push a Novel by Sapphire"

Mo'Nique accepts her Best Supporting Actress NAACP Award for "Precious: Based on Push a Novel by Sapphire."

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

'Precious,' 'Grey's Anatomy' and Keri Hilson make noise at 41st NAACP Awards

Black Eyed Peas, Morgan Freeman, Mary J. Blige, Whitney Houston also take home statues

The 41st NCAA Images were held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles tonight and as expected, the Oscar nominated Best Picture "Precious: Based on 'Push' a novel by Sapphire" dominated the night with six awards including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Picture.

Other winners included "Grey's Anatomy," Keri Hilson, The Black Eyed Peas, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and Morgan Freeman.

The complete list of winners from tonight's show are as follows: 

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Tahar Rahim and Jacques Audilard at the world premiere of "Un Prophete" at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival last May.

Tahar Rahim and Jacques Audilard at the world premiere of "Un Prophete" at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival last May.

Credit: AP Photo/Francois Mori

'A Prophet' tries to crash Oscar's Foreign Language Film race

One of last year's best dramas features a striking debut by newcomer Tahar Rahim

It's been an incredibly dramatic year for the three men behind France's acclaimed drama "A Prophet" (or "Un Prophete" as the filmmakers would prefer).  The film was generally regarded as the best picture at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where it made its debut, but lost the prestigious Golden Palm to Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon."  And since then, that's been a constant outcome for director Jacques Audilard, writer Thomas Bidegian and breakout star Tahar Rahim.

"Loser, loser," Bidegian jokes after we chatted following the Golden Globes last month. "That's been our life for the past six months.  We travel 6,000 kilometers. We put on a tux.  We go, we sit.  We applaud Michael Haneke, we have a couple of drinks and we go home."

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Sachas Baron Cohen on the 2008 Golden Globe Awards.

Sachas Baron Cohen presenting at the Golden Globes.  He's hit the big time now.

Credit: AP Photo

Tina Fey and Sacha Baron Cohen hope to crack Oscar up

The cast of 'Jersey Shore' to parody Oscar's biggest contenders

Oscar producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic may have had their first choice to host the Academy Awards swatted down by the Academy board, but they have still found a way to get Sacha Baron Cohen on the big show.

It was announced today Cohen will make his first appearance on this year's 82nd Academy Awards to present an award. Cohen has previously only appeared in person, and not as one of his famously outlandish characters, to present  at the Golden Globe Awards.  Joining him are returning presenters Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Ben Stiller.  Additionally, Jason Bateman has attend the show previously, but this will be the first time he will present.  Fey had a very memorable bit with this year's co-host Steve Martin during last year's show as did Ben Stiller alongside Natalie Portman.

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Christoph Waltz

Christoph Waltz having fun with the photogs at the annual Oscar nominee luncheon.

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

No surprises in Supporting: A 'Bastard' all the way

2010 Oscar Predictions continue with Best Supporting Actor

When the frontrunner for Best Supporting Actor is a previously unknown Austrian character actor best known for his television work it makes you consider, "Why exactly isn't there a race here?"  Christoph Waltz received rave reviews for his role as the terrifying and hilarious Col. Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's summer blockbuster "Inglourious Basterds," but was his performance so good there was absolutely no competition? Well, it's never that easy, but it may be the sad truth.

To be clear, Waltz is not slipping by.  He deserves all the accolades he's won including the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor honor, the Golden Globe, the BAFTA and even the American Screen Actor's Guild Award.  What's surprising about this inevitable outcome is that Waltz's turn wasn't heralded as the second coming like other recent portrayals such as Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood," Jennifer Hudson in "Dreamgirls," Helen Mirren in "The Queen" or Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men." But, unfortunately for those of us looking for a bit of Oscar drama, the field hasn't shaped up to challenge him.

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Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey at the Toronto premiere of "Precious"

Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey at the Toronto premiere of "Precious."

Credit: AP Photo

Madea is going from Jail to the Oscars

Tyler Perry will present at the 82nd Academy Awards, is Oprah Winfrey next?

Proving that this year's Academy Awards may be its most populist ever, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that movie mogul Tyler Perry will make his debut on the 82nd Academy Awards as a presenter.

Better known for his big screen role as the sharp tongued Madea, Perry has become an industry unto himself with such profitable hits as "Madea's Family Reunion," "Why Did I Get Married?" and "Meet the Browns."  This past year Perry, who writes, stars and usually directs his own films, appeared in another filmmakers work for the first time when he played an Admiral in J.J. Abrams "Star Trek."  Obviously, while this pundit and many viewers would like for nothing more than Madea to show up "herself" and giving a talking to the Academy audience, its expected Perry will appear as himself.

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Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor discuss their new thriller "The Ghost Writer."

Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor discuss their new thriller "The Ghost Writer."

Watch: Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor navigate politics in 'Ghost Writer'

Former James Bond also calls out CA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Continuing controversy over Roman Polanski aside, you couldn't have asked for a better debut for the director's new thriller "The Ghost Writer." 

Opening in just four theaters this past weekend, "Writer" did an impressive $183,000 or $45,752 per screen.  More importantly as it expands across the country over the next few weeks, the critics completely embraced it.  The film has an 81% average on Rotten Tomatoes and a strong 76 on Metacritic with reviewers from The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal supplying raves.  The reception won't do much to help Polanski's image, but it's a big boost for two of the film's stars: Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor.

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George Clooney in "Up in the Air"

Could stronger involvement by George Clooney on the campaign trail helped "Up in the Air" outside the Adapted Screenplay race?  We'll never know.

Credit: Paramount Pictures

Will Best Picture contender 'Up in the Air' have to settle for screenplay?

2010 Oscar Predictions continue with Original and Adapted Screenplay

In a long awards season, the weeks from early to December to the end of February feel more like a decade than the few months the constitute.  So, it's no surprise that the Best Picture frontrunner at that critical juncture is rarely the winner when Oscar eventually crosses the finish line.  That, sadly, is the fate that has met Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air."

Adored when it debuted at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals in early September, "Air's' campaign was built on a groundswell of buzz and critical acclaim timed to peak for its limited debut in December. At that time, "The Hurt Locker" was only as a potential Best Picture nominee, but unlikely winner; "Air's" only real competition was expected to be Clint Eastwood's "Invictus"; and after early bad buzz, "Avatar" was perceived as just a Sci-Fi player at the box office.  And while "Air" continued to perform well in theaters and Academy screening rooms, as the holidays grew closer the story dramatically became about a surprising raves for "Avatar" and the domination of year end accolades by "Locker."  So, while Paramount Pictures pulled out every stop possible to ease the tide, "Air" has slowly, slowly, slowly faded from the spotlight.  Except from the one race it has dominated: screenplay.

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"Up" is the frontrunner to win Best Original Score.

"Up" is the frontrunner to win Best Original Score.

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

2010 Oscar Predictions: Will 'Up' and 'Crazy Heart' sing?

Best Original Score and Best Original Song rundown

The 82nd Academy Awards are less than two weeks away and with members in the homestretch with only seven days to submit their ballots, its time to wrap up this long awards season with some final predictions.  And while we're not suggesting you head to Vegas, but Awards Campaign has a very strong track record over the years when it comes to Oscar.

Up until the weekend before the big show, we'll be reviewing each category and letting you know what to expect.  Some awards are ripe for an upset, some will be as predictable Shaun White winning an Olympic snowboarding competition and a select few will go right down to the wire.

That being said, there will be some caveats.  There is absolutely no reason to cover the Visual Effects race this year, because effectively there isn't one.  Flat out, if "Avatar" doesn't win that statue it will rank higher than "The Golden Compass'" upset win over "Transformers" in 2008 which was one of the biggest Academy shockers of all time.  Don't expect that sort of surprise in 2010.

Let's get this party started, by livening up our rundown with some sweet, sweet music predictions.

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Carey Mulligan at the 2010 Orange British Academy Awards

Can any of Oscars' young designers create a dress as impressive as the one Carey Mulligan wore to the BAFTA's on Sunday night? 

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Academy bringing its own 'Project Runway' to the Oscars

Public gets to vote on gown worn during the show

Proving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can drag themselves into the 21st Century, the Oscar org announced a new contest today that allows the public to vote on an aspect of this year's 82nd Academy Awards.  No, voters won't get to determine any winners -- perish that thought -- but they will get to decide which gown is worn by one of the many Awards escorts during the show.

Beginning today at 5 PM PT, the public can vote on Oscar.com in the "Oscar Designer Challenge 2010."  Designers from around Los Angeles, er, the country are participating including:  Fernanda Carneiro (Los Angeles), Elda De La Rosa, (Chicago), Ivy Higa (New York), Phong Hong (Los Angeles), Rania Salibi (Phoenix), Oday Shakar (Los Angeles), Ari Sheuhmelian (Los Angeles), Oliver Tolentino (Los Angeles) and Kelsy Zimba (New York). (Who knew all the good designers were in LA? Certainly not the industry in NY...).  Voting ends on March 1 with the winner being announced during the live ABC arrivals show before the big show.

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